A new study suggests premature babies are at a higher risk for mood issues and other psychological challenges than full-term babies. The researchers, led by Professor Stephen Wood of the University of Melbourne in Australia, examined the results of ten separate studies evaluating the later mental health of premature babies. The findings revealed that those who were underweight or pre-term were more likely to develop mental health issues, such as depression and psychosis, in puberty. “’As more and more of these babies survive and their physical problems are combated, we are seeing an apparent increase in mood and anxiety disorders,” explains Professor Wood. “It would appear that the earlier a baby is born the more chance there is of problems of this nature occurring.”
The study is the first of its kind to provide evidence of this direct link. Wood adds, “While conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have been known to be a problem in this group, this shows that the chance of developing other mental disorders is also increased. While we cannot as yet be sure of the cause of this problem in pre-term babies – indeed there could be multiple causes – we believe one factor could be how early life trauma affects the way the brain handles stress, and we are now exploring this in more detail.” Wood also believes that although parents should not be overly worried, they should be made aware of the signs of mental disturbance. He says, “We believe it is important to raise awareness of this issue and pay attention to it. It is easy to ignore or miss the signs and early care is extremely helpful. Being aware can increase the likelihood of mood disorders being diagnosed and tackled. There are many services available for young people and we would recommend psychological therapies for young people rather than medication.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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